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REVIEW: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at Theatre Royal Windsor

Heather Clifton

REVIEW: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at Theatre Royal Windsor

We've had our fair share of wind and rain in recent weeks and, aptly, this week's show at the Theatre Royal Windsor is going down a storm.

After Ciara, and Dennis, we've got Buddy.

The winter blues have been blown away by this whistle-stop telling of the life of bespectacled young American singer-songwriter Buddy Holly, tragically killed in a plane crash during a blizzard more than 60 years ago.

In his short but stratospheric career - he just 22 when he died -  he shook free of the easy-listening Country and Western music he grew up with in his home state of Texas and made pop songs that sold across the world, that were to inspire the likes of superstars like Lennon and McCartney.

The day of his death, February 3 1959, was described by singer Don McLean in his hit single American Pie as 'the day the music died'.

The stage show depicting his life has already survived far longer than its subject, and now celebrates its 30 years with a nationwide tour; it is performing at Windsor until Saturday.

Condensed into two hours, it touches fairly loosely on key points in Buddy's rise to stardom; scenes are mainly a vehicle for the excellent musicians in the cast to play Holly's greatest hits - crowdpleasers like Rave On, Oh Boy and Peggy Sue.

The opening scene sees Buddy (Christopher Weeks) and his band The Crickets playing at a radio station in Texas and shocking the DJ by breaking out into rock 'n' roll, an incident that would lead to a deal with Decca Records and his first hit That'll Be the Day.

The action switches to the New York suburb of Harlem where Buddy becomes the first white man to play the Apollo Theatre. People listened to music on the radio and record players in those days - a full 50 years before the invention of music streaming - and a promoter assumed he was black.

Switching scenes again, to the foyer of a New York music company in 1958, Buddy meets the receptionist Maria Elena Santiago (Hannah Price) and proposes to her later that same day. In a charming domestic love scene, as they sit on a sofa, with just his acoustic guitar as accompaniment, he sings her the beautiful, moving True Love Ways.

Fast forward eight months and we're transported to the backstage of a concert in snow-bound Clearlake, Iowa, on Buddy's ill-fated tour of the mid-west USA. The sense of tragedy looms as he calls Maria, now his wife, to say he's chartered a small plane to the next venue after the show.

There follows rollicking, rip-roaring renditions of a catalogue of great songs as Buddy, the Crickets and various other headliners of the day - The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens, who would perish too on the flight - went through hits like I'm a Wild One, Heartbeat, Johnny B Good, Chantilly Lace and La Bamba. Great work by Harry Boyd as MC too for his high-octane engagement with the audience.

The mood and tempo were suspended for a brief moment as curtain came down and the spotlight fell on a solitary acoustic guitar on its stand, marking the crash.

Then it was back to the music, and the audience took the chance to rouse to their feet, clapping and dancing as the hits kept on coming.

Clearly delighted by the audience reaction, actor Weeks told the crowd as the show came to a close: "Windsor really rocks."

He added: "Drive home safely. It's blowing a blizzard out there."

Thankfully not.

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